Budget 2014: This is what a truly progressive budget would have looked like

Osborne's simply returns us to a worse model of 2006

Share

George Osborne has today presented his last real budget. It can only be described as a final lost opportunity in a long string of them.

He’s continuing the failed policy of austerity, even though its always fragile intellectual foundations have been entirely debunked. He’s continued to carve away at the already grossly inadequate measures to shift Britain towards a low-carbon economy. And he’s created the conditions for even greater inequality in a country, and a world, in which that’s been identified as a major existential threat.

He’s claimed to be on the path to an economy that works for people, yet very clearly this isn’t the case: eight out of 10 jobs created since 2010 are in London and 80 per cent in low-pay sectors such as retail and catering; youth unemployment continues to hover around the one million mark, permanently scarring lives; and today’s much-vaunted overall unemployment figures mask a leap in the number of the self-employed, who are often forced into that position and face low pay and uncertainty. And the cash ISA limit lift to £15,000? Hardly help to anyone on the median wage of £26,500.

So what might have been in a budget that started to prepare Britain for the 21st century, instead of returning us to an even worse model of 2006? This isn’t a complete alternative budget, but five positive suggestions of what might have been.

1. Begin to seriously tackle inequality

Osborne might have declared that the Government would reset the minimum wage to be at least a living wage. This would immediately improve the position of 20 per cent of British workers now paid less than this, and have the added benefit of an injection of £2 billion into the Treasury through increased tax and National Insurance income and reduced family tax credit and housing benefit payments.

That money could go towards a guarantee to lift public sector workers’ pay by at least the level of inflation plus one per cent in the coming year, with a commitment to eventually make up the real wage losses of those workers since 2010.

Further funding for that could come from the reintroduction of the 50p tax rate, to be applied on earnings more than £100,000 a year.

2. Take steps to reduce the threat of the financial sector and multinational companies to our economy and small businesses

Osborne could have said he would join the 11 European states, including France and Germany, already committed to the financial transaction tax (also known as Robin Hood or Tobin tax), and called for it to be set at a level that would help to substantially limit high frequency trading. He could have promised further reforms to reduce the risk of a future financial crisis and make the sector work for the ‘real’ economy.

He could have promised to implement Green MP Caroline Lucas’s Tax and Financial Transparency Bill 2011, which would, among other measures, require all companies filing accounts in the UK to include a statement on the turnover, pre-tax profit, tax charge and actual tax paid for each country in which they operate. This would force the likes of Starbucks, Amazon, Ikea, and far too many other of the “big names” of our consumer economy to reveal just how little they’re contributing to the societies from which they are drawing their profits.

3. Adopt the Energy Bill Revolution

This would take the government’s income from carbon taxes (not cut back in the wholly retrograde step Osborne took today) to provide energy efficiency measures to lift nine out of 10 households out of fuel poverty, create up to 200,000 jobs, and cut carbon emissions.

4. Housing – build truly affordable homes for rent

It’s past time to end the massive privatisation programme that is Right to Buy, and allow local councils to engage in significant prudential borrowing to build homes to be let at truly affordable prices, not the 80 per cent of market rent this government falsely calls affordable, but at traditional levels of around 30 per cent of market rates. Appropriate government land should be used for this aim, and a massive drive launched to back Community Land Trusts and co-operatives.

5. Scrap Trident nuclear weapons and the programme to replace them

This would represent an immediate government saving of £2.4 billion a year, and a saving to the government over the life of the proposed replacement of £100 billion.

READ MORE  OSBORNE WARNS OF HARD CHOICES DESPITE HIGHER GROWTH
NEW 12-SIDED POUND COIN ANNOUNCED
AIR PASSENGER DUTY REFORMS WELCOMED BY AIRLINES
STAMP DUTY CLAMPDOWN HITS RICH
TAX RELIEF FOR REGIONAL THEATRE SHOWS
OSBORNE REDUCES TAXES ON BUSINESS INVESTMENT
SUMMARY OF THE INDEPENDENT'S BUDGET COVERAGE

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders